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Proposed burns spark concerns

There was a meeting held yesterday by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation in the Pemberton wine region to discuss proposed burns in the area.

Prescribed burns are seen as vital for reducing fuel load and ensuring incidents of wild fires are reduced in frequency and severity.

But there is a conflict of interest as the timing of the proposed burn coincides with when winegrapes in the region are most susceptible to smoke taint.

Bellarmine Wines chief executive officer and winemaker Diane Miller says much of the state’s South-West relies on wine tourism and its wines are exported overseas, interstate and sold to Perth.

“The multi-million dollar WA wine industry supplies jobs to a significant number of people in rural areas and is a very important part of the West Australian economy and lifestyle,” she said.

“Private companies do not provide insurance against smoke damage so Western Australian producers need financial support in the event of smoke damage to their grapes.

“Compensation was listed as a key recommendation in the DEC media statement from 11 May 2007 and now requires urgent attention from the Western Australian government.”

Miller pointed out the effect of smoke can be scientifically measured by the Australian Wine Research Institute from samples taken of leaves and grape bunches before and after a fire event.

“The AWRI are offering this as a free service to wine grape levy payers,” she said.

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